News in brief

March 14, 2013

United States
Honesty and the non-PC dean

The interim dean of a US university’s school of law has stood down saying he was “too politically incorrect” and not a good fit for the position. Tom Keefe, who took over the temporary position at Saint Louis University in August 2012, said inappropriate comments made by him - including remarks perceived as sexual harassment - were regrettable but misinterpreted, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “I have chosen to step down because obviously there have been statements made about things I have done, and in all likelihood I’ve done them all,” Mr Keefe said. “The problem is I’m just too politically incorrect to be a dean.” Referring to a comment he made on his appointment that he would be independent in his role and not the “butt boy” of the university’s president, he added: “In the beginning I gave an interview and I stuck my foot in my mouth, and I’ve been sticking my foot in my mouth ever since.”

Teaching-only posts increase

The number of teaching-only academics at Australian universities is expected to rise noticeably as industrial relations in the higher education sector respond to increasing pressure for changes to traditional academic roles. Belinda Probert, deputy vice-chancellor at La Trobe University, who has recently authored a report on the topic for the federal Office for Learning and Teaching, pointed to a shift in attitude by the academic union, the appetite of university managers for more teaching academics, and the expiry of many enterprise agreements that did not make provision for these roles, The Australian reported. Moreover, Jeannie Rea, president of the National Tertiary Education Union, has argued for the creation of 2,000 “scholarly teaching fellows” as entry- level, permanent jobs “to start to soak up” some of the plentiful casual teaching positions.

Improved access to universities

A regional government in India has announced plans to introduce quotas of places in higher education for citizens from specific social and economic backgrounds. Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the West Bengal government, said that “reservation” - a form of affirmative action - of places for “scheduled tribes, scheduled castes and other backward classes” would be introduced in the forthcoming budget session of the state assembly. However, Ms Banerjee made it clear that the places for general category students would not be reduced to accommodate the changes, adding that funding of 10 billion rupees (£122 million) for the reservation and additional infrastructure would be provided, with 6 billion rupees spent annually, The Economic Times reported.

Planning dispute escalates

A row between a Hong Kong university and the government has escalated over a disputed area of land near its campus. Hong Kong Baptist University claimed it filed a proposal in 2009 for the site, but Ko Wing-man, the secretary for food and health, rejected this, saying the plot was still available for anyone. The row began last year when the government proposed rezoning the site for luxury residences. University representatives last week said that the land was important for its development as a key player in the city’s Chinese medical industry and that its application for developing a Chinese medical hospital was submitted four years ago, the South China Morning Post reported.

Fee hike cap may be tightened

Post-secondary tuition fees in Canada’s most populous province are expected to rise this year by less than 5 per cent, the first time this has happened in almost a decade. Tuition increases in Ontario have not yet been decided, but Brad Duguid, the minister of training, colleges and universities, said he was not happy with the current cap, instituted by his own Liberal Party in 2006, that allows fees to rise each year by up to 5 per cent. “As the father of a Grade 11 and a Grade 12 student, I’m keenly aware of the need to ensure affordability,” he said. There is speculation that the province may let fees rise by inflation plus 1 per cent, as a compromise between student groups calling for a freeze, student groups asking for a 30 per cent drop over three years, and institutions that argue that they need the 5 per cent fee increase, the Toronto Star reported.

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